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Palestinians Clash with Israeli Forces; Trump White House; Facebook Faces New Crisis with Leaked Memo; Sierra Leone Runoff Election. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired March 31, 2018 - 03:00   ET





CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Saturday a second day of protests in Gaza but this was the scene on Friday when 17 Palestinians were reported killed and more than 1,400 wounded along the border with Israel.


VANIER (voice-over): Plus, packing up. U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg closes as part of a diplomat spat with Russia.

And also this:


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

VANIER (voice-over): K-pop and politics. South Korean singers and musicians head North to practice some musical diplomacy. We'll tell you about that as well in the show.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier from the CNN NEWSROOM here in Atlanta.


VANIER: Funerals and more protests are expected Saturday in Gaza. Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has declared it a day of mourning. Let me show you the scene on Friday.


VANIER (voice-over): A few hundred meters away from the border fence between Israeli and Gaza on the Palestinian side, at least 17 protesters were killed in clashes with Israeli troops. Almost 1,500 people were wounded. This is according to the Palestinian ministry of health.

Israel for its part says tens of thousands of Palestinians were marching over the fence. Witnesses say Israeli troops fired live rounds as well as rubber bullets and tear gas.


VANIER: Ian Lee is standing by in Gaza. He's been covering this.

Ian, are the protests going to continue on Saturday, given what happened yesterday?

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's what we'll be watching, Cyril. Yesterday we were in the northern part of Gaza. Today we're on the southern side, outside the city of Khan Yunis.

Already at this camp right here. There are people starting to gather for another day of protests. Fridays are traditionally the days of protest, where you do get the large numbers. And we saw tens of thousands of people, just in the spot we were at.

We were told down here there were also tens of thousands of people gathered. But Cyril, we heard from the ministry of health that yesterday was the single bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 war.


LEE (voice-over): The value of land in blood and tears. Earlier, Gazans moved toward the border. Israeli soldiers monitor from a dirt berm on the other side.

First, they fire warnings, then tear gas.

The Palestinians advance, some hurling rocks with slingshots. Then come Israeli bullets and the casualties.

LEE: Throughout the course of the day, we have seen so many people injured that the ambulances have a tough time of keeping up. They drop the injured people off at the hospital; they get back, usually filled up and they are off again.

LEE (voice-over): The death toll rises, more than 1,000 injured. Overwhelmed hospitals struggle to cope. Still, the tens of thousands rally around the Palestinian flag. They are demanding to return to their lands lost in the 1948 war, which is now in Israel. Hamas urged them to remain peaceful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Of course we feel afraid but we should sacrifice for our land. People should sacrifice for it. But, of course, we feel scared. We are afraid because our children are very important for us.

LEE (voice-over): Scenes like this played out along the border, Palestinians and Israeli soldiers squaring off. For the residents of Gaza, the goal is simple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are ready to cross now over to the border. We aren't waiting. We have crossed it before and we will do it again. LEE (voice-over): Crossing that fence is a red line for Israel's

military, blaming Hamas for the day's violence and issuing a warning that the army views with great severity any breach of Israeli sovereignty or attempts to damage the security infrastructure.

Yet still, the young men of Gaza push forward, casualties mounting. The largest protest Gaza has seen in years, met with deadly violence. And this is only day one.


LEE: And Cyril, we'll be monitoring today, day two in this. This is expected to go on for six weeks. So we're expecting to see a kind of ebb and flow, more people gathering on the weekends, especially on Friday. We spoke also with the spokesman of the Palestinian ministry of health this morning and --


LEE: -- he said there's a real lack of supplies for emergency medicine as well as equipment, something that they say they desperately need. Also, there was a lack of blood yesterday. They said people have been coming in to donate. But it just gives you the idea of the situation and the tensions here in Gaza -- Cyril.

VANIER: All right, Ian Lee reporting live from the Gaza Strip right now. He is in the southern Gaza Strip, he was just telling us and he'll be telling us throughout the day how things develop there today. Thank you.

The U.N. is taking new action against North Korea. Days after its leader Kim Jong-un visited China, the Security Council accepted a U.S. proposal on Friday to blacklist dozens of ships and shipping companies.

The move targets coal and oil smuggling by the North. The U.S. and South Korea will also be putting on a show of force with joint military drills this weekend.

Also, consider this, these South Korean artists who will be performing in a different kind of show. They left for the North just hours ago for a short tour. The troupe includes a K-pop girl band and rock singers. It's the first time in more than a decade that South Korean artists will perform in the North.

Let's try and figure out what all of this means. CNN's Alexandra Field is in Seoul.

Alexandra, we'll get back to that in just a moment. But first, tell me about this. North Korea has been having a very, very busy start to this year. Think about it. Olympic diplomacy and then this last visit to China this week and then the upcoming meeting with South Korea and possibly a meeting with Mr. Trump.

Why so much diplomacy all of a sudden? ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's really been this torrent of diplomatic activity that's taken place over the last two months. It is such a marked difference from what we were experiencing on the peninsula, when tensions reached their height at this time last year and really progressed up until the middle of the summer.

You had this exchange of very fiery rhetoric between the leader of North Korea and, of course, president Donald Trump.

So how did we get here?

To answer your question, Cyril, you'll get a different opinion depending on who you ask. The United States will say that this is the result of their campaign maximum pressure, a concerted effort to work with international partners to slap a series of the most severe sanctions on North Korea that that country, the reclusive regime has ever seen.

If you ask North Korea, they would essentially say that they have they have made tremendous strides with their missile and nuclear program, that they have worked quickly to develop the program that they believe is essential to regime survival and they believe that that gives them some control in the situation here.

The breakthroughs really started when you had a face-to-face meeting of high-level delegates from both North and South Korea who agreed that North Korea would send a delegation across one of the world's most heavily fortified borders to the Olympics, which took place in South Korea.

After that we saw agreements that there would be this South Korean- North Korean summit. This will be the first time that the two leaders have had a summit of this kind in more than 10 years.

And then the jaw-dropping announcement that President Trump himself was willing to sit down with Kim Jong-un. So you certainly have seen an incredible thawing of tensions from the height of tensions that we had seen a year ago and even six months ago.

The question now is, where do we go from here?

It seems pretty clear that this summit will most certainly take place between the North and South; in fact, they set a date for it. President Trump and the White House continue to say that a meeting will take place with Kim Jong-un.

But this weekend does mark the start of military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. These are annual exercises. They do tend to infuriate the North. The North sees this as preparation for an invasion. They see it as a defensive measure.

The U.S. and South Korea continue to say that these are solidly defensive measures that help them to maintain readiness here on the peninsula. This year, Kim Jong-un has acknowledged to South Korea that he understands that these exercises are going forward. That's a difference from the past years when Pyongyang and Beijing

have both suggested a freeze-for-freeze style program, in which the U.S. and South Korea would agree to suspend their exercises.

In exchange, they would essentially press pause on their nuclear program. That's been the suggestion from Beijing, something that Pyongyang has agreed to in the past.

So you do have these exercises moving forward. They're happening over a shorter timeframe this year and it's expected that these exercises would come to an end before any potential meeting between Kim Jong-un and President Trump.

So while have you all this going on, you also have the other point that you made, which is that we're seeing yet another diplomatic gesture happening at the very same time, which is this arts troupe, this delegation that's heading over the border today. South Koreans going to North Korea to perform for some --


VANIER: Alex, I got to stop you right there because I got to give our viewers the essential context here.

Steve, let us put up the video. I looked up the video for one of the hits of this girl band that's part of this music troupe. It does not look like anything I think North Koreans are used to seeing, at least performed live in North Korea. All right, it's up on screen.

Educate us --


VANIER: -- a little bit, Alex, about how this is going to go down in North Korea and why this is even happening.

FIELD: So you've basically got a delegation of nearly 200 people from South Korea who are going to North Korea this weekend. They're going to perform a concert on Sunday night and then there will actually be a joint concert between North Korean and South Korean performers on Tuesday night.

This K-pop group, Red Velvet, it's one of the biggest groups in South Korea. It certainly looks authentically South Korean to anybody across the world who's looking at this. How will this play in North Korea?

Cyril, it is interesting. North Korea does have a few of its own K- pop bands. They've got a pretty popular K-pop girl band of their own and they've got a couple of other spinoffs of that.

So this won't be entirely foreign to North Koreans but this is an opportunity for potentially more North Koreans to see this kind of performance. We're talking about thousands of people who will be in the audience for the performance, 11,000 to 12,000 potentially. This will also be broadcast in not just South Korea but also in North

Korea. There is a tradition for these kinds of cultural exchanges. This is something that started back in 1985. That was the first time that we saw North Korean performers coming to South Korea, South Koreans performers going to North Korea.

They would share their music and their marked differences in their culture and of their cultural icons, so to speak. Just this week, actually, I spoke to one of the rockers, who is going over there, one of the legendary South Korean rock bands will also be a part of the performance this weekend.

He performed there in 2002. His band, he said that, at the time, the reaction from the audience was somewhat awkward. It was clear that the North Koreans in the audience weren't used to the kinds of arrangements that this group was performing.

He said that, by the end of the performance he really felt that the band had won hearts. And that's what the spirit of this thing is really about. This is symbolic. It's going to be a good show for people in North Korea but it's really -- there's a symbolism here that's certainly important and it's going to be conveyed in North Korea, South Korea and really around the world because we're talking about it right now -- Cyril.

VANIER: Absolutely. And I have to tell you, I actually went and watched the girl band, the North Korean girl band, that is reported to be Kim Jong-un's favorite. It had nothing to do with this Red Velvet band. I don't have the video here handy. We'll have time to put it on screen this weekend as we talk about this but it's not the same --


VANIER: Alex, thank you. Good talking to you. Thanks.

Now Russia had promised to respond. And so it has. Diplomats from at least 23 countries are no longer welcome in Russia. Moscow expelled 50 of them. This is retaliation for Russian diplomat in more than 20 countries being told to leave.

It came a day after Russia told 60 U.S. diplomats to get out. We are now looking at staff leaving the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. That consulate now closed by the Russian government. All of this started with a nerve gas attack in Britain on a former Russian spy and his daughter. The U.K. says Russia did that; Moscow denies it.

And as the diplomatic tug-of-war continues, Russia has released video of a test launch of its new intercontinental ballistic missile. The official Russian name is Sarmat; NATO, however, calls this Satan 2.

Russia says it has the capability to carry as many as 60 warheads and can hit targets anywhere in the world. And, yes, that includes the United States.

If you look up this weekend, you might see fireballs in the heavens. Don't worry. The sky is not falling. Maybe just a space station falling, though. We'll have details.

Plus, a jolt for java sellers in California. Why coffee shops may have to warn customers about their cup of special roast. We'll explain next. Stay with us.





VANIER: Welcome back.

Malala Yousafzai, the 20-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is visiting her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. She hasn't seen her home since the Taliban tried to kill her in 2012. We have had -- there it is -- video of her helicopter landing. Malala says she's hopeful for Pakistan's future.

During an interview on local TV, she praised the rise in activism and the fight for free speech in her home country.

Australian cricketer David Warner says that he accepts the fact he may never play for his country again. He gave a statement to the media in Sydney in which he apologized for his role in a cheating scandal. Warner and two other cricketers are suspended over a ball tampering plot in South Africa. Their coach has also announced he's resigning, even though he officially is not part of this plot.

Here's part of Warner's emotional statement.


DAVID WARNER, AUSTRALIAN CRICKETER: I want to apologize to my family, especially my wife and daughters. Your love means more than anything to me.


VANIER: OK. Another scandal for you now. Facebook, again, pressure mounts for the company to change how its data is used. And a leaked memo is only adding fuel to that fire. CNNMoney correspondent Clare Sebastian has the details on this.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The controversial memo published by BuzzFeed this week was written in June 2016 by Andrew Bosworth, a top executive at Facebook.

In it, Bosworth argues that the platform should focus on its core mission of connecting people, even if it has negative consequences.

"Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools," he writes. "The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is de facto good."

Bosworth defended the memo, tweeting, "It was intended to be provocative. This was one of the most unpopular things I have ever written internally and the ensuing debate helped shape our tools for the better."

Well, if the memo was provocative at the time, it may be even more so now. Facebook CEO was supposed to publicly defend his platform for the second time in as many weeks, telling CNN he strongly disagreed with the memo when it was written and that they recognize connecting people isn't enough by itself.

Zuckerberg is already facing a grilling in Congress over why Cambridge Analytica accomplished links to Donald Trump's presidential campaign access and then stored the data of 50 million Facebook users without their permission.

Even before that, he was in damage control mode over Russia's use of its platform to interfere in the U.S. election. In the past two weeks, Facebook's stock has plummeted almost 14 percent. This latest scandal couldn't have come at a worse time -- Clare Sebastian, CNNMoney, New York.


VANIER: Scientists say a Chinese space station tumbling uncontrollable towards Earth could enter the atmosphere within days. It's called the Tiangong-1, which means Heavenly Palace. It stopped functioning two years ago already. In fact, it's been in a decaying orbit since then. Ivan Watson joins us now from Beijing.

Ivan, where is this thing right now?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's take a look at the satellite tracker that we've been following. And it shows us an approximate location of the Tiangong-1, the Heavenly Palace. I believe somewhere off the west coast of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia.

And it's traveling around the Earth at a speed of roughly about 89 minutes. Now what's more important is that its altitude is deteriorating. And we can show you a graphic just showing how it has descended in the last couple of days from a height of 207 kilometers --


WATSON: -- on the 27th to about 189 kilometers on the 30th. And the prediction is that it could burn up in the Earth's atmosphere somewhere between March 31st and April 1st.

Now the reason that it is falling, that is less clear because the Chinese space agency informed the United Nations that it had essentially lost contact with its first space lab, which had initially been launched in 2011, lost contact with it in 2016 but it waited until some 14 months later to issue that communique to the United Nations, while also insisting that it posed very little risk to aviation or to anybody on the ground.

Most space experts agree that the chances of getting hit by a piece of debris from this space station, which is about the size of a bus, is very, very slim. That said, it is not a controlled descent that the Tiangong-1 is going through right now. And there is the chance that people might see it hitting the Earth's atmosphere in a splash of possible fireballs.

Probably it would be the solar panels that would burn up first but there are chances that some debris may hit either oceans or the ground. But it's worth noting, this is an uncontrolled descent. The Chinese space agency hasn't been able to communicate with this space lab since 2016 -- Cyril.

VANIER: Ivan Watson, tracking this school bus that's going through space towards us.


VANIER: Polls are opening in Sierra Leone for a runoff election, one that's been --


VANIER: -- delayed because of allegations of fraud in the first round and the election has also been fraught with division over reports of hate speech and tribal differences. Here's more on the candidates and the key issues facing the nation.


VANIER (voice-over): Sierra Leoneans are heading to the polls to choose a new president. No candidate was able to secure the 55 percent needed to win the seat during the March 7th elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be a second election (INAUDIBLE).

VANIER (voice-over): Dr. Samura Kamara, chosen by outgoing president Ernest Bai Koroma to succeed him, is a former minister of foreign affairs for Koroma's administration.


VANIER (voice-over): On the minds of many Sierra Leoneans, corruption, education and the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The education system is so poor in the country, food facilities are very poor. Right now we're buying rice at 1,500 leone per cup and bag at 240,000 leone. So this is not good for the country.

VANIER (voice-over): Thirty dollars for a bad of rice, a fortune in a country where more than two-thirds of the population lives on less than $1 a day. The opposition leader, retired brigadier Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone's People Party says this is something he plans to change.

JULIUS MAADA BIO, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to take actions that are in the best interest of our economy, of our people, that will promote the interest of our people. That is what I will do.

VANIER (voice-over): Bio is not a newcomer to Sierra Leonean politics. In his late 20s he was part of a group of soldiers who overthrew the government. The year was 1992. Four year later, he staged a coup, ousting then president and friend, Captain Valentine Strasser. His hopes of staying in office were short-lived as Ahmed Dijon Kaaba was democratically elected as president two months later in 1996.

In 2012, Bio tried for the seat again and lost. The current president Ernest Bai Koroma. Though Bai and Koroma are now on opposite site, they were once allies. In 1996, during his brief presidency, Bio chose Mr. Kamara to be his finance minister.

Whoever wins will have a lot on his plate. Sierra Leoneans are still recovering from deadly mudslides that killed over 1,000 people last year, an Ebola epidemic in 2014 that left thousands dead and an 11- year civil war that devastated the country.


VANIER: Thousands of coffee shops in the U.S. state of California may have to serve a cancer warning along with their cappuccinos. That's because a judge in Los Angeles ruled that about 90 coffee sellers have failed to warn customers about a potentially toxic compound produced during the roasting process.

This is a preliminary decision and companies have until April 10th to appeal it. But watch this space. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.